Big eaters and real idiots: evidence for adnominal degree modification?

  • Camelia Constantinescu


This paper examines certain types of adjectival modification that have been taken as evidence in favour of the existence of gradable nouns and of adnominal degree modifiers/ operators. It shows that the distribution and interpretation of the modifiers in question (i.e. adjectives such as big and real) does not support such a view, and argues instead for a different account. Size adjectives are uniformly analysed as size adjectives, which, depending on the type of noun they modify, may receive a concrete or an abstract interpretation, while real is analysed as an epistemic adjective. In certain cases, the interpretation is misleadingly similar to interpretations obtained by means of degree modification in the adjectival domain (e.g. the abstract size interpretation); it is, however, arrived at via different mechanisms. This, in combination with facts concerning the distribution of cross-categorial degree modifiers like more, is taken to show that no grammatically accessible gradable structure of the type familiar from the adjectival domain is represented in the lexical semantics of nouns. The study also provides evidence in favour of the existence of instances of properties (tropes) and their relevance for the lexical semantics of particular classes of nouns and for their composition with particular types of modifiers (in particular, size adjectives).
How to Cite
Constantinescu, C. (1). Big eaters and real idiots: evidence for adnominal degree modification?. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 17, 183-200. Retrieved from